Be firm when it comes to saying no Managing

September 17, 1990|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

"Since we are redoing the offices, I would like to request carpeting," said a subordinate.

"No, carpeting will not be available," responded the supervisor.

When questioned about the quickness of his response, the supervisor said: "We can talk about it for two hours or we can talk about it for two minutes. The response will still be 'no.'"

When you have to say "no," do not back off, hedge or otherwise qualify your statement, say consultants Pennie Myers and Don Nance, of the Wichita State University Counseling Center, in their recent publication, "The Upset Workbook."

Many managers admit that they often have trouble saying "no" to subordinates, especially when the request appears reasonable. Myers and Nance offer many other practical suggestions for saying no:

*Listen all the way to the end of the request before making a response.

*Consider cushioning statements to soften the blow. For instance, "I appreciate your feelings*I understand your position* What you say does sound reasonable."

*Decline the request with clear, simple words such as "no ... it is not possible ... the budget will not permit ... I cannot approve."

*Give a reason for saying no, but do not argue the reason. If the person making the request persists, simply respond, "I understand you do not agree with my reasons."

*If possible, say yes to some other option. For example: "I cannot approve a two-day extension of your June vacation, but you will be eligible for more vacation time in September."

*Be prepared to say no again without increasing the tension or reducing the firmness in your voice.

Most people will accept a clear and simple no if they perceive that you are both understanding and firm.

Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and a management consultant. Send questions to The Wichita Eagle, P.O. Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201. He will answer representative questions in the newspaper but cannot respond to every request.

Saying no

Check all the following that apply:

The last time that a subordinate made a request that I should have refused, I ...

1. Responded before the subordinate completed his/her request.

2. Did not give a simple, clear "no."

3. Got into an argument.

4. Encouraged the subordinate to persist by qualifying my response.

5. Said "yes" after a lengthy discussion.

6. Got angry.

7. Did not give a reason.

8. Got into a discussion that ranged far from the original request.

9. Tried to convince the subordinate that he/she was wrong.

10. Reminded the subordinate that I was the boss.

A check of any of these items suggests a need to improve your method for saying "no."

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